Tag Archives: guest beer

Black Gold and Hop Henge: Two delicious Oregon beers

This week we had two guest beers on taste panel which were really quite nice. One of them even obtained the coveted “Defect-Free?” title which really hasn’t been handed out by our panel before that I recall. Quite a refreshing experience.

First, the Imperial Stout from Full Sail Brewing. This was the beer that the panel could find no appreciable defects in. It was smooth, flavorful, balanced (as Imperial Stouts go), and really quite nice. This beer was apparently aged in bourbon barrels for 10 months, and it shows. Very complex and alcoholic bourbon/whiskey flavors, deep roasted malt characters, and a stomach-warming 11.4% abv. If you like stouts and you enjoy those rich flavors that come along with bourbon-barrel aging, this should be your beer.

Descriptors:
Bourbon Barrel
Alcoholic
Vanilla
Pineapple
Cocoa
Tangy
Creamy
Anise
Fruity
Thick
Defect-free?

Another beer we had this week makes regular appearances in my fridge at home. It’s my go-to IPA at the moment, since it hasn’t let me down yet. Deschutes Brewing’s Hop Henge Experimental IPA. Not sure what’s experimental about it, unless they are trying to see how much of it they can get me to buy. This IPA is not light on malt flavors, but the crown jewel of this beer is its immense floral and green-hop aromas. And at 9% abv, it’s rather deceptive; it really doesn’t present itself as having that much alcohol. Balanced, refreshing, and tasty, I’ll be coming back to this one next year (it’s one of 3 Bond St. Series IPA’s on seasonal rotation).

Descriptors:
Resinous, Green Hop Aroma
Sweet
Astringent
Catty
Isoamyl acetate
Worty
Alcoholic
Malty
Solvent

Drink up!

This is a positive beer review.

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve run across a few comments in various places which have described an overall negative vibe from many of my posts, particularly the guest beer posts I make. Some have accepted the idea that since it’s my job to search for defects in beer, then that is what I will do and those defects will rise to the top of my descriptions of beers. There is probably some truth to that, however finding defects is certainly not my sole function when I assess a beer. I look for positive aspects of beers as well, but when certain defects are present at certain levels it becomes hard to look past them and it’s not always possible to describe a silver-lining for a bad beer. So, I just wanted to reiterate that I try to be as objective as possible when I taste beer, that I really do search for good qualities in all the beers I try, and if I come across a beer that I really enjoy or find unique in some way I will discuss it here. In fact…

… just yesterday my panel tasted the 2011 Bigfoot Barleywine from Sierra Nevada (blind, as our guest beers are always tasted). I’ve had previous incarnations of this beer before, but it has been awhile. I don’t normally seek out many barley wines when I shop for beer, as I usually look for the more drinkable session beers instead. That doesn’t mean I don’t like barley wines, however, there’s just so much I can take sometimes. It would probably take me close to a week to finish a six-pack of this beer.

So as I mentioned, it’s been a couple years since the last Bigfoot I had, but I don’t recall it being this floral. Alcoholic, caramel, roasted malt flavors, etc, but not much in the way of floral character. The initial “orthonasal” aroma of this beer is very floral. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the floral character blew off and left behind the very malt-oriented flavors associated with a barleywine. Can’t really fault the beer for that, it’s just a fact of life with flavors, particularly these kinds; by their very nature they are volatile and therefore do not necessarily last very long in the beer (some more than others). There was some mild oxidation in the beer, and some panelists mentioned a harsh and lingering bitterness (perhaps bile-like) but I would not consider these to be particularly negative aspects of this beer. Overall, as barley wines go, this one was quite nice. If you like big, chewy beers, go get some of this.

Descriptors:

Floral
Vegetative
Woody
Caramel
Salty
Sweet
Lingering bitterness
Bile
Oxidation
Sulfury
Alcoholic
Astringent
Smoky
Coffee

Guest beers: a Sahti and an Imperial IPA

We’ve got two more guest beers to discuss today.

First up, we have what looks like a new offering from New Belgium’s “Lips of Faith” series – at least I hadn’t seen it yet. This is Sahti, which is a traditional Finnish beer usually brewed with various spices, often with juniper. This particular beer was apparently brewed with orange and lemon peel, as well as juniper. At 7.2%abv, this beer is in the ballpark of a traditional Sahti, but the flavor profile wasn’t nearly as unique as the marketing implied. Few defects were apparent, but at the same time there wasn’t much to write home about either. It seemed moderately drinkable because of a relatively low bitterness and clean finish, but there wasn’t much in the flavor to latch on to; it was just a bit more boring than I’d expected. Not bad, just not great.

Hazy
Sweet
Meaty
Nutty
Smooth
Grainy
Ethyl acetate
Flat (low carbonation)
Thin
Low bitterness

The second beer we’ll briefly discuss is a new Imperial IPA from Pyramid Brewing called Outburst. Most of Pyramid’s beers haven’t ever excited me much, although I can enjoy their Curveball Kolsch when it’s available. Outburst took me a bit by surprise. Much of the harsh, bile-like bitterness in their Thunderhead IPA was fortunately not present in this beer. The hop aroma was nice and floral and resinous, there were some complexities in the malt-character, and enough alcohol to warm you up a bit. Overall, it was nicely balanced and a pleasant experience, although the higher bitterness and alcohol cuts the drinkability a bit. Our terms:

Tomato Vine
Diacetyl
Thick
Alcoholic
Salty
Floral
Hop resin
Grapefruit
Catty

Order up! Two more guest beer profiles

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted something new on here, so I thought I’d make sure that this week didn’t go by without any activity. Granted, it’s still not much…

So, one of my favorite New Belgium products is their Belgian black ale known as 1554. It’s not your typical dark ale, like a porter or a stout, in that it doesn’t have so much of the roasted and chocolate-type flavors commonly associated with these styles. Rather, it has a surprising amount of the fruity estery characteristics, and for me this makes for a more drinkable beer relative to these other styles. Unfortunately, the sample I put in front of the panel was oxidized, so it had some of those sherry/port and papery/cardboard flavors, but it was still a decent example of this fine beer.

Descriptors:
Cardboard
Oxidized
Clove
Smokey
Coffee
Vanilla
Astringent
Thin
Coating
Alcoholic
Fruity
Isoamyl acetate (banana)

The second beer we’ll profile here is from Lost Coast Brewing, and it’s known as Great White. No real descriptor on the label explaining exactly what style of beer this is supposed to fit in that I could find. This beer is unfiltered, and this can unfortunately lead to autolysis, as was the case for this beer. As yeast die off (from high alcohol, age, and/or elevated temperatures) they tend to throw a variety of flavors into the beer which are commonly associated with savory, brothy and meaty flavors. Really, not good. Have you ever tried Marmite or Vegemite? These products (bread spreads popular in England and Australia) are made with autolyzed yeast product, and this flavor is what develops in unfiltered beer as it deteriorates. Interesting to note the comments which mention cleaning products. This has come up now and again with some of our guest beers, and I’m not sure where it comes from.

Descriptors:
Lemon Pledge
Haze
Cleaning Product
Soapy
H2S
Chlorine
Urine
Bready
Crackers
Isoamyl acetate
Savory
Autolyzed
Sulfur

I also want to solicit any requests anybody might have for beers they think we should taste. If we’ve already tasted them, I’ll put it in the next guest beer profile, otherwise I’ll try to seek it out and give it to my panel. Email address can be found in the “Contact” page above, or just stick it in a comment here.

Guest Beer: Buy One, Get One

The Sensory Panel tasted more guest beers this week, and two of them stood out to me as needing discussion here. One of them will provide a segue into the next article.

First up: Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Imperial IPA. I realize that I’ve already profiled a Lagunitas product, and I wouldn’t normally choose another so soon but, as I said, this one stood out. I had just purchased one for my personal use last week and after I realized what it tasted like I decided I had to put it in front of my panel. This beer is a perfect example of a “Two-Face” beer (a beer which is enjoyed at first… until you notice something that makes you want to pour it out) and also a good example of a popular flavor defect. When you first open, pour, and smell the beer it smells quite good, overflowing with fine hop flavors (citrus, floral, resinous hop flavor, dry-hop aroma, tomato plant, lingering bitterness). However, it doesn’t take long for Mr. Hyde to show his face: burnt rubber and, above all, mercaptan. It’s so intense that this beer can practically be used for a flavor standard for mercaptan. We’ll talk more about mercaptan in the future (can’t use up all my material all at once), but at the moment it’s enough to say that it smells like natural gas or propane. More accurately, it smells like the additive (ethanthiol) that they put in natural gas and propane to make it odorous, since they have no odor themselves. So is it a good beer? It was ok at first, but once I nailed down that mercaptan identification it was down the drain. Pity.

The second beer is from Unibroue (a Canadian brewery which focuses on Belgian beers). The beer was Fin du Monde (End of the World), and it’s described as a Belgian Triple. I’d had this beer a few times in the past and it’s been a pretty decent beer, despite the fact that I can only take so much of the clovey-phenolic flavors common in Belgian beers before I have to move on. This particular beer, however, wasn’t great, and the problem was the yeast. Apparently this beer had been abused a bit, since it had significant levels of the meaty, soy-like autolyzed flavors which are released from dead yeast cells. The label said that it was “Best before 2013″, to which I had a good laugh since the flavor had already been destroyed and it’s barely 2011. Personally, I don’t see how you can give any unfiltered beer a shelf-life of over 2 years since no matter how well you take care of it the yeast WILL die and throw autolyzed flavors. Now it did seem like these flavors did reduce a bit after it had been in the glass for a few minutes, allowing some of the more classic Belgian beer flavors come through, but it never really went away. Descriptive terms: hazy, soy, meaty, autolyzed, apple sauce, clove, alcoholic, rubbery, tangy, sweet. Another good beer, ruined by the distribution system.

Which brings me to my next topic… (which should be posted soon).

Guest Beer: Lagunitas Czech Pils

Here’s descriptors for another guest beer we’ve tasted on our panel. Again, panelists do not know what these samples are until after the descriptive profiling session is complete.

Lagunitas Czech Pilsner. I tried to get a little information about this beer from their website, but all I found was a strange diatribe which reminded of the essays that Stone Brewing puts on their bottles. So I’ll just copy BeerAdvocate.com’s description of a Czech Pilsner:

The birth of Pilsner beer can be traced back to its namesake, the ancient city of Plzen (or Pilsen) which is situated in the western half of the Czech Republic in what was once Czechoslovakia and previously part of the of Bohemian Kingdom. Pilsner beer was first brewed back in the 1840′s when the citizens, brewers and maltsters of Plzen formed a brewer’s guild and called it the People’s Brewery of Pilsen.

The Czech Pilsner, or sometimes known as the Bohemian Pilsner, is light straw to golden color and crystal clear. Hops are very prevalent usually with a spicy bitterness and or a spicy floral flavor and aroma, notably one of the defining characteristics of the Saaz hop. Smooth and crisp with a clean malty palate, many are grassy. Some of the originals will show some archaic yeast characteristics similar to very mild buttery or fusel (rose like alcohol) flavors and aromas.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 4.5-5.5%

Our panel’s terms for this beer:

Oxidized
Skunky
Spicy
Clove
Grainy
Cereal
Lager sulfur
Ethyl butyrate
Clean finish
Light body
Earthy
Low hop aroma
Astringent

Aside from the oxidized and slightly skunky notes, this beer wasn’t terrible. It seemed to lack some of the spicy hop characters common in Czech Pilsners, but it did have that grainy/cereal-type flavors common in European-styled lagers. It’s BeerAdvocate grade is a B, but when it’s in good shape I might give it a bit higher grade.

Guest Beer 1: Full Sail Sanctuary

As I’ve mentioned previously, every taste panel I administer terminates with a blind tasting of a “competitor’s” beer sample [I put "competitor's" in quotes because I may include some of our own beer in on rare occasions].  The only thing my panelists know about the beer is what color it is.  The reason for blind tasting is to limit all the sources of bias that I can control; I want my panelists to experience these beers with as few preconceived notions as possible.  At the moment, I’ve got tasting data for over 150 of these samples, so I thought I’d make them a normal part of this blog.   Hopefully our descriptions of these beers can help you expand your awareness and vocabulary.

Some of the terms on these lists are common terms and some are molecular names, and since I have to assume that the readership has limited knowledge of these things, if I think a term needs additional description, I’ll include it.  We will cover the molecular names for these in future posts, so don’t worry too much if you feel overwhelmed.  Stick around, it will get easier.

Today’s beer is Full Sail’s (Hood River, Oregon) Belgian-style Dubbel called “Sanctuary”.  This latest addition to their line of Brewmaster Reserve beers, was bottled in a 22oz bottle, with a stated ABV of 7% and 20 IBUs.

Descriptors:
Stone fruit
Oxidized
Fruity (estery)
Sweet
Solvent
Acetone
Butterscotch
Metallic
Medium body
Papery
Port
Sour
Clove

I’ve already discussed why you should (and how to) pick out the freshest beer you can find in the store, and some of the reasons are stated above: “Oxidized, papery, port, stone fruit” are all common terms associated with the oxidation of beer. Other flavors suffer when beer oxidizes, not only because these flavors themselves degrade, but also because the oxidation flavors that build up easily mask whatever flavors and aromas are left over. This is not [necessarily] the fault of the brewer. Most beer abuse happens after the beer leaves the brewery, much to the dismay of the brewers who tried their best to treat it right.
Overall, this beer was fairly decent. Other than the oxidation, no apparent off-flavors were present; the noted sourness was pretty limited and did not seem to indicate an infection, although this was our first exposure to this beer, so we can only assume it tasted true-to-type. Being only a “dubble” it was a fairly mild beer, as belgians go. Limited (but still present) phenolic/clove aromas and the low-ish alcohol means that this could be fairly drinkable for those used to the style. As usual, just be sure to buy it fresh, if possible.